2023 MLB Rule Changes

2023 MLB Rule Changes

There are several rule changes that have been made prior to the 2023 MLB season. Many of these rule changes have been tested at either the minor or major league level and now have successfully been implemented as permanent fixtures in the rulebook. Read on to learn more about the rules changes coming to the MLB in the 2023 season.

List of 2023 MLB Rule Changes

  • Bases are increased from 15 x 15 inches to 18 x 18 inches.
  • Pickoffs and other forms of disengagement are limited to twice per plate appearance.
  • Teams will no longer be allowed to shift infielders.
  • A pitch clock will be enforced.
  • Extra innings ghost runner rule is now permanent.
  • Position players may only pitch in certain blowout situations.

Base Size Increase

Starting in the 2023 season, the base size will be increased to 18 inches by 18 inches.  Prior to the 2023 season, first, second, and third base were all 15 inches by 15 inches. The size increase aims to decrease baserunning injuries and increase stealing attempts.


Pickoffs and Disengagement

MLB Pitcher Disengagement Rules

Starting in the 2023 season, pitchers and defenses will only be able to “disengage” play two times per plate appearance. Pickoffs, faking a pickoff, stepping off the rubber, and calling a timeout are all considered “disengagement.” If a pitcher or defense disengages more than twice during a single plate appearance, they will be charged with a balk. The only exceptions to this rule are if a baserunner successfully advances or an out occurs during the third disengagement.

This rule aims to increase steal attempts, as pitchers will need to be cautious not to attempt too many pickoffs in a single at bat. It will also help speed up the pace of play, as pitches will be thrown more often.

Ending the Defensive Shift

mlb ending the shift rules

While ending the defensive shift has been a highly debated topic for years, it will finally come to fruition in the 2023 MLB season. Prior to the pitch, two infielders must be on either side of second base and all infielders must be positioned on the infield dirt or infield grass. This essentially ends the shift, as infielders will no longer be allowed to stack on one side of the field or enter the outfield prior to the pitch.

If a team is in an illegal formation prior to the pitch and the batter or any base runners are called out, the offensive team will have the choice of accepting or denying the penalty. If they accept, the batter will return to the plate with an extra ball in the count. If they deny the penalty, play will continue as normal.

The MLB is choosing to ban the shift to increase base hits. The MLB league-wide batting average in 2022 was .243, which is the lowest it's been since 1968. Since many hitters hit a majority of their batted balls into one side of the field, decreasing the number of possible infielders on one side of second base will lead to more base hits.


Implementing a Pitch Clock

MLB Pitch Clock Rules

The pitch clock has existed in the minor leagues in previous years, 2023 will be the first year the MLB enforces a pitch clock. The pitcher will need to begin their pitching motion within 15 seconds when there are no runners and within 20 seconds when there are runners. The added time for when there are runners on base is to allow the pitcher to observe the runner’s intentions of stealing.

The MLB pitch clock will have an immediate effect on the league, as the pitch clock has already proved to shave off over 20 minutes of game time in the minor leagues. This rule aims to make baseball a more fast-paced and consumable product for fans.

Extra Innings Ghost Runner

MLB Ghost Runner Rule

While this is not a new rule, the ghost runner rule was implemented in previous years, each extra inning starting with a base runner on second base. This rule was first introduced on a trial basis in the 2020 season. However, in 2023, the rule became permanent. Having a runner start on second base will enable games to end quicker when they go to extra innings, as a runner will already be in scoring position when the inning starts. This rule will only be in place for MLB regular season games; there will be no ghost runner in MLB Playoff games.


Position Players Pitching

Starting in 2023, position players will not be allowed to pitch until their team is down eight or more runs at any point or leading by 10 or more runs in the ninth inning. Position players are allowed to pitch at any time during extra innings.

The rule was put into place to encourage competitiveness and decrease injuries. Since position players do not train to pitch, they are at an increased risk of injury when they are put on the mound. Also, when a team puts in a position player to pitch while trailing, they are basically surrendering. Limiting when a team is allowed to surrender will improve the competitiveness in MLB games.


What are the new MLB rule changes in 2023?

The MLB instituted five key rule changes in 2023. The first rule change ends the shift, which was taken out to increase hitting numbers. Pickoffs are also now limited to two per at-bat to increase stolen bases. A 15 or 20-second pitch clock will be implemented on every pitch to decrease the length of games and make them more consumable. The size of the bases will increase from 15 x 15 inches to 18 x 18 inches to increase stealing attempts and decrease injuries. The last rule limits the situations in which a position player is allowed to pitch, which will decrease teams surrendering games by putting a position player on the mound.